On my way back from lunch the other day I passed some schoolchildren being taken to visit the Indian Heritage Centre, and they were walking in a line, two by two, holding hands, perky in their school uniforms. I'd forgotten about that, how in primary school they always allocated an even number of boys and girls to each class, and it must have been in some Ministry handbook under SOP, that you lined all the boys up in from the shortest to tallest, and likewise the girls (I was always was the last in line, having sprouted 4 inches a year every single year of primary school until I was almost my present height by age 12) and then have the two lines come together to form a queue of two-by-twos. (And I remember now, that when the caterpillar-line was on the move you were always to hold hands.)

And it was a good system, no? It meant the teacher could look down the line with no visual obstructions, and could see at a glance if a child was missing. It made it easy to do a roll call too, self-reporting really -- you just had to see where the gaps were and have the other child call out her partner's name. Many of the children would swing theirs arms especially vigorously as they went, to see how high their arms would go. And it was all so natural, and officially sanctioned, it is done in every kindergarten and preschool and primary school, to have little boys and girls holding hands, no one thought it anything perverse or dangerous, as they would for older children. (I was put in mind of the easy friendship of young men and women portrayed in that Time article about Oberlin's co-ed dorms, that S had been so proud of.) Do school children in other countries walk in lines? At least in American school stories children are always disappearing on field trips (at the museum for preference -- query: can one really live in the Museum, like Claudia in the Konigsburg?)

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